1999-2009 Alfa Romeo 166: Buying used

By: Joe Kenwright

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Buying a 1999-2009 Alfa Romeo 166 is a classic case of heart over head

1999-2009 Alfa Romeo 166: Buying used
Buying used: 1999-2009 Alfa Romeo 166


1999-2009 Alfa Romeo 166


Launched in August 1999, the Alfa Romeo 166 was one of the most striking four-door family sedans of its time, with a variation of the smaller 156’s looks.

A more refined and reliable version of the Alfa 3.0-litre V6 with four-valve heads and twin plugs delivered a healthy 166kW and 275Nm, both at relatively high revs. In Australia, it was exclusively mated to a ZF four-speed automatic with sequential shift that soaked up enough output not to embarrass the generic front-drive chassis.

However, this layout dictated a large turning circle and a heavy feel that belied the car’s performance and 1500kg kerb weight. Sophisticated double-wishbone front suspension and a multi-link rear contributed to an outstanding highway car, but was less convincing around town.

A mid-life update arrived in 2004 featuring Alfa’s latest corporate front styling and minor tweaks but after slow sales globally, production ended in 2007 and the platform was sold to the Chinese. Local stocks took until 2009 to clear so a car’s compliance plate and when it was built are of greater interest than most.

The 166 remains a stand-alone sedan with extra character over its Japanese and German rivals, but cabin space is less than expected given its exterior bulk. Recent talk of a 166 replacement based on the Chrysler 300 suggests a return to Alfa’s more traditional rear-drive layout.


High-$80,000 ask when new was discounted but not enough to justify $10,000 average for a reasonable, early example. Very rare last examples might top $15-20,000. Price is highly dependent on service history.


¦ Major faults can write-off the 166 as it ages, so take pre-emptive action should you purchase one. Heater-core seals shrink with age and heat, allowing coolant to drain onto the collection of computers sitting below for an expensive round of fiddly and extensive electronics failures. Specialist service centres should know about this and can install a protective cover before it occurs.

¦ Regardless of what the book says, oil must be changed every 10,000km or less to avoid sludging and other damage. Coolant history is also important.

¦ Timing belt interval was shortened to 60,000km and relatively short time interval to avoid terminal damage to the engine. Tensioners slacken off over time and distance and allow the belt to jump its teeth, leaving mutliple valves and pistons to make an expensive collision.

¦ Upper and lower front control arms – which include ball joints and bushes – are routine replacement items and must be replaced as a total unit. Look for unusual tyre wear.

¦ Water pump’s plastic impeller can shear and should be replaced with a metal item before its failure causes engine overheating and damage.

¦ Special multi-directional bushes in the rear suspension are routine replacement items.

¦ Sticking airflow meter in the fuel injection system can make the 166 hard to start and generate a flatspot when cold.

¦ The pump inside the auto can wear out, making it unable to generate sufficient pressure and aerating the fluid for a range of strange transmission behaviours.

Thanks to Alfa 166 experts Maranello Pursang Motors (03) 9386 9650



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